Craig Jardula, co-owner of the Los Angeles-based video news outlet The Convo Couch, said he was caught in a cloud of tear gas and had guns pointed at him and a colleague by law-enforcement officers as they covered protests in Portland, Oregon, on July 21, 2020. They also said officers smashed the windows of a van they were using.
Jardula said he had arrived in Portland two days earlier with his colleague Fiorella Isabel Mayorca to cover the Portland protests that had grown more intense as the presence of federal law enforcement increased.
Demonstrations against police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the U.S. since late May. They were sparked by a video showing the death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
Jardula told the U.S Press Freedom Tracker he arrived at a demonstration at approximately 9:30 p.m. on July 20 outside the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse downtown, where federal law enforcement officers were stationed.
Jardula streamed live on YouTube for several hours, documenting the demonstration and interviewing protesters. He said he returned to a van parked nearby that they had been using as a media station and spot to rest and regroup a little after midnight. Dubbed the “Bernie Van,” it was owned by progressive activist David Crow and had been used as he independently campaigned for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders during the recent Democratic primary. It was adorned with progressive slogans, including “Defund the Police.”
While inside the van at approximately 12:30 a.m., Jardula saw what he believed were federal law enforcement officers in riot gear come out of the courthouse and start to throw tear gas canisters on the ground to push protesters back, he said.
“We started choking from the smoke that came in,” Jardula said. “We were pouring water on our faces. We were almost panicking.”
The Tracker has documented Mayorca’s assault here.
Jardula continued to film the scene. An officer saw Jardula and Mayorca and alerted other agents to the van. Video posted on Twitter shows an officer pointing a gun at the van before a group of officers approach, shining flashlights on them and hitting the windows until they shatter.
Jardula said that it appeared that the federal officers “wanted everybody out of that area, no matter who you are. They were setting a perimeter to push everyone back.”
While a number of federal agencies reportedly had officers in Portland in July, it wasn’t clear to Mayorca and Jardula which agency the officers they encountered were from. The Department of Homeland Security, which coordinated the federal presence in Portland, did not respond to requests for comment.
After the van’s windows were smashed, Jardula said he left the vehicle and shouted to the officers that he was a member of the press.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.